Ghost Pines Winemaker’s Blend Zinfandel 2014

Inky dark ruby color; raspberry, oak, eucalyptus on the nose; black cherry, raspberry, plum, brown spice, cola, meat, oak on the palate.

This is pure zinfandel play made from grapes sourced from three CA counties: 66% San Joaquin, 30% Sonoma, 4% Lake, thus the “winemaker’s blend” name. The style is big, flamboyantly jammy, lush, palate-pounding big fruit and liberal oak. Dry, but the big fruit and alcohol and oak fools the tongue into tasting some sweetness; smooth, reserved acidity (3.74 pH), full body. This is full-out, berries-to-the-walls North Coast/Central Valley wine with full, rich, jammy style.

It is no surprise Sonoma County grapes appear in most Ghost Pines wines, including this one. Sonoma is where winemaker Aaron Piotter grew up and where the winery is located (Healdsburg). Piotter is an experienced winemaker: he worked in the cellars at Sebastiani while going to school; after graduation from UC-Davis he worked at Viansa, Franciscan Estates (with their Mt. Veeder, Quintessa, Estancia brands), then Ferrari-Carano before joining Ghost Pines.

Piotter prides himself on sourcing grapes throughout the region, not just Sonoma, an important skill when you work for Gallo, the owner of this brand. Piotter asserts his wines “embody the progressive spirit of California winemaking: no boundaries, no limits.” Also “multi-region sourcing allows us to choose the best grapes for our wines, regardless of traditional winegrowing boundaries.” You are going to get the opposite of a single-block artisanal wine from this bottle.

The winery gets its name from indigenous grey pines that loom along the hillsides in Napa County. Native to California, ghost pines adapt to a variety of climates and soils, much like grapevines. Some of the fruit for Ghost Pines wines come from the Ghost Pines Vineyard started by Louis P. Martini (son of Louis M. Martini) in 1964, but the Louis M. Martini company does not own Ghost Pines Winery, E.&J. Gallo Winery does. Don’t you enjoy the intermingling of grand families of California wine in California wines?

Ghost Pines Winemaker’s Blend Zinfandel 2014: Big, jammy zin with plenty of oak, alcohol, and vivid fruit. $16-20

Ghost Pines website

Second photo: Ghost Pines winemaker Aaron Piotter